Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.

Richard Strauss: Arabella

I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.

Carmen in Orange

Some time ago in San Francisco there was an Aida starring Luciano Pavarotti, now in Orange it was Carmen starring Jonas Kaufmann. No, not tenors in drag just great tenors whose names simply outshine the title roles.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Arrigo Boito, Mefistofele
23 Aug 2009

Boito: Mefistofele

The bravura performance by Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role is spoiled by the kitschy and incoherent staging of this production. Mefistofele is unique among operas based on the Faust legend in that it rather closely adheres to Goethe’s version.

Arrigo Boito, Mefistofele

Mefistofele: Ferruccio Furlanetto; Faust: Giuseppe Filianoti; Margherita/Elena: Dimitra Theodossiou; Marta: Sonia Zaramella; Wagner/Nereo: Mimmo Ghegghi; Pantalis: Monica Minarelli. Stefano Ranzani conducting. Stage Director: Giancarlo Del Monaco. Live performance at Teatro Massimo, Palermo, January 2008.

Dynamic 33581 [2DVDs]

$48.49  Click to buy

Indeed, the original, no longer extant, version of this work was approximately six hours in length. Even in the severely truncated revised version, Mefistofele has always proven itself to be a serious work, with a libretto that (like Busoni’s Doktor Faust) has some real literary merit. Unfortunately, following the reigning spirit of Regieoper in Europe, director Miguel Del Monaco and set designer Carlo Centolavigna have all but denuded this great opera of its serious intent.

Opting for a 20th-century setting (which in and of itself is not a problem), the “creative” team behind this production has missed the central point of Boito’s (and by extension, Goethe’s) drama, namely, the age-old Platonic opposition of the real and the ideal, in this case, represented by the Margherita/Elena (Helen of Troy) duality. While the ever-reliable Dimitra Theodossiou is afforded the opportunity to continue the tradition of performing both roles, the intention behind this appears to be economic rather than dramatic.

Act I is set in Frankfurt during Easter Sunday, but it is in the Germany of the 1920s, not during Martin Luther’s time. This is at best a questionable tactic because the seemingly peaceful interregnum of the Weimar Republic had such terrible consequences in the following decades. Overloading the already heavily-laden symbolism of the Faust legend with the tragedy of modern German history helps to obscure Faust’s personal dilemma. Adding to the incoherence of the staging, Del Monaco then proves not to have the courage of his convictions by at least being consistent with the historical implications of his staging of Act I, and sets Act IV, the Night of the Classical Sabbath, in Las Vegas. Helen of Troy is reduced to being a showgirl in a tawdry stage show and her attendant Nymphs reminded me of the June Taylor Dancers who used to open the Jackie Gleason TV Show of the 1960s with overhead shots featuring kaleidoscopic choreography.

The ultimate consequence of this staging of Mefistofele is that the characters of Faust and Margherita/Elena are reduced to mere appendages of Mefistofele’s mercurial personality. One of the problems with this opera has always been the overshadowing of Faust and Margherita by Mefistofele. Del Monaco’s staging has exacerbated tenfold this dramatic disparity.

The one saving grace of this production is Ferruccio Furlanetto’s Mefistofele. His performance incorporates a spectacular bass voice with animated acting. The acting, at times, may appear to be a bit over the top, but it is forgivable given the imbecility of the staging. Indeed, Furlanetto’s performance helps to divert attention away from the visual and back to the musical, and for that we must be grateful.

To be charitable to the performers, I thought that the singers and orchestra performed rather well, but at times it was difficult to gauge this accurately since this DVD suffers from very poor balance. Even allowing for the recording difficulties inherent in a live performance, there is really no excuse in this day and age for a professionally recorded DVD to have such poor audio quality.

This DVD will have appeal mostly to fans of Ferruccio Furlanetto. My advice is to turn off the video and listen to the voice.

William E. Grim

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):